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Monday, December 12, 2011

12/13/11 - Simply Stunning Christmas - Auberge du Soleil Style

Christmas is just around the corner!  Are you planning your Christmas meal and wondering how to make it just that bit more special?  Auberge du Soleil Executive Chef, Robert Curry and Pastry Chef, Paul Lemieux, will share some simple, yet special ideas to give your meal that Auberge-touch.  Then Head Sommelier, Kris Margerum, will give us ideas on some great wines that won't break the budget and some more unexpected pairings from around the world.  Spa Director, Amy Wilson-Moghina, will leave us with some festive season refreshers and relaxation tips, and spa gift ideas - all in the comfort of your own home. 

About Auberge du Soleil:

Auberge du Soleil the California Wine Country’s most prestigious luxury inn is nestled in a 33-acre sunlit olive grove on the slopes of Rutherford Hill, on the eastern verge of the Napa Valley.  Auberge du Soleil is a distinctive property that captures the international atmosphere of today's Napa Valley.  Boasting extraordinary views, hillside walkways that wind through olive groves and sculpture gardens, elegant cottages, an intimate spa and unparalleled service, the Auberge sets the standard for gracious hospitality.  Its Michelin-starred restaurant, one of the first great Wine Country establishments, pays tribute to its legacy with an award-winning menu and wine list.  Luxurious accommodations, exceptional cuisine and service earn Auberge du Soleil recognition year after year as one of the world’s most renowned small luxury hotels.

The Michelin-starred Restaurant celebrates its 30h anniversary in 2011 and unveiled a refreshed décor as well as a new private dining deck featuring Auberge du Soleil’s famed panoramic views of the Napa Valley. Originally opened as a destination restaurant in 1981, the Auberge became the first luxury hotel in Napa Valley when it added 50 Provence-inspired maisons and two private cottages five years later.

Executive Chef,

As Executive Chef of Auberge du Soleil, Robert Curry oversees all culinary aspects of the renowned Napa Valley inn and Michelin-starred restaurant, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in April 2011.

Curry’s menu reflects his extensive experience in the traditions of both Napa Valley and France, which continue to inspire the cuisine at Auberge du Soleil.  His signature dishes include: White Corn Soup with Rock Shrimp and Chervil Oil; Seared Ono with Wakame, Tempura Maitake, Glazed Pork Belly, and Dashi; Bacon Wrapped Veal with Foie Gras Ravioli, Sugar Snap Peas and Wild Mushrooms; and Liberty Farm Duck with Figs, Hearts of Palm, Fennel, Arugula and Port Beet Sauce.

Curry brings to the Auberge a passion for Wine Country cuisine cultivated at award-winning restaurants in the Valley, on both coasts and in Europe.  Prior to joining Auberge du Soleil in spring of 2005, he served as Executive Chef at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, Calif.  There, his menus showcased ingredients harvested daily from Greystone’s own organic garden and the bounty of local farmers and purveyors.  Prior to that, he launched the Flying Fish Café, the fine-dining seafood restaurant at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.  Curry made a name for himself early on among Northern California food lovers during his eight years at Domaine Chandon in Yountville, Calif., first serving as Executive Sous Chef under Philippe Jeanty and ultimately succeeding him as Executive Chef.

A native of Los Angeles, Curry began his culinary career there in 1986 at Ma Cuisine, Wolfgang Puck and Patrick Terrail’s cooking school, during which time he received his degree from the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y.  Following graduation, he was recruited by Michael Richard and Alain Giraud for Citrus Restaurant.  In the late ‘90s, he traveled the world to study cuisine, working with Alain Ducasse at his three-star Louis XV in the Hotel de Paris; with Joseph Thuet at the Moët & Chandon Résidence de Trianon in Epernay, France; and in Paris at the two-star Michel Rostang.

Executive Pastry Chef,

Chefs Rob and Paul
at the Napa Valley Wine Auction

Executive Pastry Chef at Auberge du Soleil, Paul Lemieux is the creative force behind the delectable desserts and confections produced in the kitchen at this renowned Napa Valley inn. 

At the 80-seat dining room at Michelin-starred Auberge du Soleil, Lemieux offers an outstanding seasonal dessert and cheese menu.  He created the Auberge Torte au Chocolat, the inn’s signature dessert. Lemieux handcrafts each torte with 11 layers of crisp hazelnut dacquoise, exquisitely smooth chocolate crémeux, fresh pureed organic hazelnuts and intensely rich dark chocolate ganache and ships them daily to fans nationwide. His sweet touch is evident throughout the resort, from the house-made confitures served at breakfast, to the chocolate-hazelnut truffles, pistachio caramels and amandes au chocolat he pairs with vintage Madeiras after dinner, and the pâte de fruits given to all dinner guests as a thoughtful parting gift.  

Lemieux’s passion and creativity in the art of pastry making are the result of nearly 20 years of experience honed at renowned restaurants throughout the United States. A native of Wisconsin, he spent time developing his skills at top restaurants on both coasts.  He began his career after graduating Magna cum Laude from Johnson & Wales University College of Culinary Arts in Providence, R.I., in 1992.  After early stints as a chef and pastry chef on the East Coast, he made the move to San Francisco, where he worked with renowned chef Traci Des Jardins at Rubicon.

Recognizing his talent and passion for confections and chocolates, Des Jardins mentored Lemieux and, in 1996, appointed him pastry chef.  A year later, she asked him to join her as pastry chef at her new namesake restaurant, Jardinière.  An instant success, Lemieux continued to demonstrate his creativity in the world of desserts, adapting his own style of simple and pure flavors and focusing on fresh and seasonal ingredients in each dish. 

Lemieux quickly was recognized as a true culinary star, earning critical acclaim by Gourmet magazine, which referred to him as “San Francisco’s up-and-coming pastry star.”  His passion for chocolate was well known, and in 2002, he founded, with wife Michele, Paul Lemieux Chocolates, a Portland, Ore., small-production company creating artisan truffles with organic ingredients purveyed from local farmers. He was lured back into the restaurant world in 2002, when he was recruited to the position of pastry chef at Lucere Restaurant at Portland’s Riverplace Hotel.  In 2003, his culinary journey led Lemieux to the Napa Valley, where he has flourished, not only as the creative mastermind behind Auberge du Soleil’s unforgettable desserts, but also in his role as educator at the Culinary Institute of America, where, as Adjunct Baking and Pastry Instructor, he trains and mentors the next generation of pastry chefs.

Head Sommelier

As Head Sommelier at Napa Valley’s Auberge du Soleil, Kris Margerum follows a simple philosophy when selecting wine for the inn’s Michelin-starred restaurant: One plus one can equal three.  The right wine complements the food, and together, they create an unforgettable experience.  Margerum has been in pursuit of the perfect food and wine pairings at the iconic wine country inn for more than 25 years, during which time he has developed close relationships with the top wine makers of Napa Valley.  His wine list currently offers 1,500 selections from a 17,000-bottle cellar and has been awarded Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for the past five years.

Margerum works in partnership with Executive Chef Robert Curry to create exquisite food and wine pairings for the six-course Chef’s Menu and all of the other dishes Curry dreams up for the Restaurant and the more casual Bistro and Bar.  Margerum is also responsible for the restaurant staff’s wine education and conducts wine tastings and advanced-level winery tours for them on a regular basis. 

“A few years ago, I started conducting blind tastings,” recalls Margerum.  “This allows me to evaluate each wine on its own merits, without prejudice.  I taste more than 100 wines a week to find four or five that meet my ideals and make the wine list and hope our guests can benefit from knowing that each wine has been hand selected.”

Margerum has developed wine lists for a number of other Auberge Resorts’ properties, including the opening wine list for Esperanza in Los Cabos, Mexico and for Calistoga Ranch in Napa Valley.  More recently, he turned his attention to Auberge Spa, where he pairs wines by the glass with the floral or herbal notes in a selection of spa treatments to create the ultimate wine country spa experience.  His newest project, a collaboration with Auberge pastry chef Paul Lemieux, showcases Margerum’s passion for Madeira wines and Lemieux’s talent with confections in an after-dinner presentation of Madeiras and house-made chocolates.

Margerum’s career with Auberge du Soleil spans more than 25 years.  Prior to being appointed head sommelier in 1999, he acted as the restaurant’s assistant food and beverage director for six years, helping to oversee daily operations, planning, budgeting, forecasting, hiring and reviews, monthly inventories and guest satisfaction management.  Before that, he acted as assistant restaurant manager for the Auberge and was promoted to restaurant manager after a year.  He began his career at Auberge du Soleil in the dining room as a server.

Margerum is a graduate of the Sterling School of Service and created the Napa Valley Sommelier Society, which meets quarterly at various Napa Valley restaurants to discuss common issues and strategies – and, of course, to taste wine. 

Spa Director, Auberge Spa

In her position as Spa Director of Auberge Spa, Amy Wilson-Moghina oversees all aspects of operations, staff management and treatment protocol at the award-winning spa, open exclusively for hotel guests at Auberge du Soleil.

Wilson-Moghina joined Auberge du Soleil after tenures at well-recognized spas in the U.S, including the Boulders Resort in Carefree, Ariz., Alvadora Spa at the Royal Palms Resort in Phoeniz, Ariz., and most recently, at the first Heavenly Spa by Westin at the Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa in South Carolina.

Wilson-Moghina has a Bachelor of Science in Recreation and Leisure Services from Murray State University in Kentucky and is Comprehensive Aesthetics Certificate from the National Aesthetics Institute in Scottsdale, AZ.

Amy and Robert relax before the show.
Created for the exclusive use of the inn’s guests, Auberge Spa occupies a 7,000- square-foot building overlooking the Napa Valley.  Anchored by a central courtyard punctuated by fountains and 100-year old olive trees, the spa reflects the French country inn charm and elegant simplicity of Auberge du Soleil.  The eight treatment rooms – including three designed specifically for couples – surround the courtyard, each bathed in natural light streaming through French doors that lead to a private garden with outdoor shower or tub.  Spa treatment-wine pairings at Auberge Spa are offered daily and are complimentary.

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